Dancer to Dancer

Where Should You Stand in a Convention Class?

Al Blacksone teaching class at JUMP (courtesy Break the Floor Productions)

Convention classes are inevitably packed. To have the best possible experience while surrounded by hundreds of fellow convention-goers, put some thought into where you choose to stand in the room.

Start with a goal: "What people seek from class absolutely informs where they stand," says Dana Wilson, hip-hop teacher for New York City Dance Alliance. Hoping to win a scholarship or award? Trying a new style? Want to meet new people? These factors impact where you'll have the best class, so figure out your intentions before you enter the room.

Stand in the front if…

…"you're a go-getter and you're OK doing your thing in a confined space," says Kristi Fair, lyrical teacher for Kids Artistic Revue. Dancers who stand in front crave direct interaction with the teacher, and do their best work "when they're getting immediate feedback—when they're close enough for the teacher to say, 'You right there, that was great, keep it up!' " Wilson says.

You don't have to be a pro in the class style to stand in the front, but you do have to exude positive energy. "I would encourage dancers to stand in front if they're enthusiastic about improving at that style," Wilson says.

The downside? The front is the most densely packed area, so it can be tricky to do the combo full-out if it requires traveling or floorwork. If you choose the front, you have to be confident that when the class breaks into small groups, you'll be able to execute the steps without having practiced them.

Dana Wilson teaching at New York City Dance Alliance (courtesy NYCDA)

Stand on the side if…

…you enjoy having freedom to move around and you don't mind dancing on carpet. "I like dancing on the sides because I can move forward or backward freely," Wilson says. "I can head toward the front to see the steps, and then, without disrupting the class or other people, skirt along the perimeter and be dancing in the back of the room moments later."

Some conventions also have screens displaying live video of the instructor alongside the stage. "Standing in front of screens, you can get just as great of a view," says Al Blackstone, musical theater teacher at JUMP.

But don't forget the freedom on the sides sometimes also comes with a flooring challenge: "A reality of convention is that you are going to dance on carpet," Blackstone says.

Stand in the middle if…

…you want to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. In the middle, "you're surrounded by energy," Blackstone says. Having 360 degrees of dancers around you means you have more resources. "The teacher isn't the only one who can help you," Blackstone says. "One of my favorite things when taking convention class is asking the person next to me for help."

Like the front, the middle can be tricky because it's jam-packed. Also, since dancers in the middle aren't close to the stage, you might get lost in the crowd. But that can also serve as practice for the professional dance world. "Dancing in the middle of the room is best for seeing what it might be like learning choreography at an audition, where you don't get to pick where you stand," Wilson says.

Al Blackstone teaching class at JUMP (courtesy Break the Floor Productions)

Stand in the back if…

…"you have a relaxed personality and you don't need to be in the spotlight as you learn," Fair says. "And if you're a more hands-on, physical learner who needs space to work out the choreography."

The back is also a good place to implement notes from teachers or judges. "For application of notes, I always try to get to the back of the room or a corner, where there's more space," Wilson says. Plus, the front row isn't the only place to get noticed: "The dancers in the back of the room who don't need me to push them are the ones I'm drawn to, because they are fully committed to dancing," Blackstone says.

However, if a class counts toward scholarship or award consideration and you're in contention, pick a moment to step forward. "I have seen brilliant dancers get overlooked when they audition in the back," Wilson says.

Ultimately, there's no rule that you must stay in a certain space. "Stand in front, learn the footwork, then move to the back and practice," Blackstone says. "When you feel really confident, take center stage."

A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Finding Your Space."

Show Comments ()
Cover Story
(From left) Mean Girls dancers Riza Takahashi, Ben Cook, Kamille Upshaw, Jonalyn Saxer, DeMarius R. Copes, and Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette (photos by Erin Baiano)

Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.

OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.

Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.

Keep reading... Show less
Lloyd Knight perform ing in Martha Graham's Night Journey (photo by Brigid Pierce, courtesy Knight)

Principal Lloyd Knight has become a true standout in the Martha Graham Dance Company thanks to his compelling presence and dynamic technique. Knight, who performs leading roles in iconic pieces like Appalachian Spring and Embattled Garden, was born in England and raised in Miami, where he trained at the Miami Conservatory and later graduated from New World School of the Arts. He received scholarships to The Ailey School and The Dance Theatre of Harlem School in NYC and joined MGDC in 2005. Catch him onstage with MGDC during its New York City Center season this month. —Courtney Bowers

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
University of Minnesota Dance Team (courtesy University of Minnesota)

They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.

Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.

These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider (Warner Brothers)

Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:

You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm a hip-hop and jazz dancer, and I want to get involved in the commercial-dance world. I've never studied ballet, but people keep telling me I "have to" take ballet classes if I want to make it professionally. Is that really true? My family has limited money for dance classes, and I have to be careful about how I spend it.


Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via Metro UK/SWNS

You know what they say: "Age is just a number." But no one proves that quite like Joyce Harper. At 98 (!) years old she's still teaching ballet, and is currently breaking the internet with her adorableness.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Via @dreamcatchersda on Instagram

Everyone loves a good viral video, especially when there's dancing involved. And though many viral videos are contrived and created for the soul purpose of instafame, the story behind the latest video catching the eyes of millions—including Rihanna, super model Naomi Campbell, and Diddy—is even more unique because it features children who don't even know who those celebrities are.

A dance troupe in Nigeria has become the next internet sensation, thanks to their exuberant dancing and passion with which they perform. Their enthusiasm for dance is evident in every step and it's hard not to smile as you see these children (who range from ages 6 to 15) express pure joy in something as simple as dance. These nine kids are part of The Dream Catchers, an organization started by 26-year-old Seyi Oluyole, that gives impoverished children a place to live while teaching them how to dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Illustration by Dniella Ferretti

For 16-year-old Amanda*, dance is everything: her passion, her escape from the daily grind, and her career goal. Her parents see things differently. "I have siblings who are active in sports," Amanda says, "and my parents would rather I play soccer or basketball. They don't see dance as something I can earn a stable living from in the future. They often tell me I should just quit."

Some parents aren't able to, don't know how to, or choose not to give you the kind of support you need to thrive in the studio. And when your parents are adding stress to your life, rather than alleviating it, there's a lot at stake. "Dancers who don't have the support of their parents might struggle with self-doubt," says Dr. Linda Hamilton, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and a clinical psychologist specializing in the performing arts, "while those whose parents are too involved can crack under the pressure." Whether your parents aren't there when you need them or they're always there, practically smothering you, try these tips to improve your situation.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
💯 💯 💯 (via Instagram)

On Friday night, the iconic RuPaul made history as the first drag queen ever to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And it didn't take long for the world's most fabulous RuPaul fan/one of our favorite human beings, Mark Kanemura, to commemorate his idol's accomplishment with—naturally—a WALK to end all walks.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
(From left) Val Chmerkovskiy, Peta Murgatroyd, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Jerry Metellus, courtesy Nicola Phillips)

And as if this terrific trio weren't enough, "SYTYCD" finalists Koine "Koko" Iwasaki and Chris "Kiki" Nyemchek will be there, too!

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox